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Hiking the Upper Peninsula
with Steve & Sue

 

Indian Lake Pathway

 

Indian Lake Pathway map


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The DNR Indian Lake Pathway hiking, bicycling, cross country skiing trail is a lightly used 4.5 mile single track trail through lightly logged Lake Superior State Forest land, near Indian Lake and the Big Spring, northwest of Manistique.

We've passed this trailhead frequently but only once ventured down the trail for a short ways one mosquitoey summer day some years ago. I recall it wasn't very clear of brush and we never went back, having better nearby trails to walk. But this winter-of-hiking we gave it another chance. And it was quite nice, in addition to being close to home. It's a woods trail not a road trail so it is mainly one track, mainly the domain of skiiers when there is enough snow, but a nice hiking trail when there isn't. When we went there was a bit of young growth in the trail but not excessive, and having clipped millions (it seemed) ourselves of those small hardwood trees-to-be in an attempt to keep a trail clear we know how challenging that can be.  


February 1, 2021 -- Starting February with the Indian Lake Ski Trail

Only 8 miles from home is a nice little 4.5 mile hiking/biking/skiing DNR trail - the Indian Lake Pathway. Since it was a beautiful, upper 20's, calm wind, partly cloudy day (also known as a hiking day), and we had need to go into Manistique, we decided to look into this trail on our way home. If it didn't look like it was worth walking we would walk on down the road to the local snowmobile trail. We knew there was a parking area at the Pathway and, thankfully, it was nicely and completely plowed. Not surprisingly, given the low amount of snow, there were more boot tracks on the trail than ski tracks so we didn't mind adding our own shoe tracks, there not being enough snow to require boots, and we prefer walking in shoes (with wool socks).

There was sun-time for a couple hours walk and the map showed three consecutive loops, the longest being 4.5 miles. Just right for our walk. The trail at the trail-head end was well packed with tracks so walking was pretty easy, if a bit lumpy. And especially through the first loop there were plenty of blue trail markers and easy to read maps at the intersections so one was unlikely to get lost. But the trial crosses several snowmobile-roads and there were many well traveled animal trails criss-crossing the main trail so if you weren't paying attention, or if there had been a fresh new snowfall with no tracks, the markers would be much appreciated. As the trail went on there weren't so many, but there were enough.

The overcast sky gave way to sun as we walked and there was just Indian Lake Pathway trail marker Februaryoccasional light winds, mostly blocked by the woods, so it was enjoyably mild. The first loop went through a sparse woods which had been logged, mostly (my guess) due to the dead and dying beech. The area was thick with young growing beech trees, decked out in their pretty sienna colored winter leaves that shiver with any hint of breeze, and dance lively in a wind, making a soothing rustling sound. Hopefully these young ones will survive to re-create a beautiful beech forest one day. Meantime, it was a pleasant woods and it let the sporadic sun shine through. There were several ski tracks on the trail though it must have been a challenging trek with the lack of snow, the abundance of boot and animal tracks, and periodic areas of young brush in the trail. Walking had to be easier.Indian Lake Pathway trail February

As we walked on through the second loop the woods were a little thicker with some red pine plantation, and the people tracks fewer. Around the third, outer, loop we lost all but one dedicated skiier and one hiker. The terrain became hilly, interesting, and the mixed hardwoods more dense, though still with a fair number of large dead beech and young growth. It was a nice forest and the sun shining through made it even better. The deer and coyote tracks and animal trails became even more numerous.Indian Lake Pathway Loop3 February

At the far end of the third loop where it curves around to go back there were two ZZ signs on the map -- most difficult. So it was no surprise when we came to a higher ridge and a nice climb upward with the herring-bone tracks of the skiier in the snow. We decided to stop and eat our lunch at the top in the area between the signs. We found a spot near a large dead beech that had fallen across the trail and settled down on a nicely placed mound beside the trail. With the sun warming us through the trees we rested and ate our warm salsa and rice lunch. What a beautiful world.

We dug in our heels as we made our way down the other side of the high ridge and paused to step over a tree toppled across the path. That had to be a disappointment to the skiier, to have a nice, though steep, down-hill interrupted by a tree. But they obviously got over it and continued on as did we, walking beside the ski tracks when we could, making a trail for whoever might come after, often walking in the well traveled animal tracks. We had lost the lone hiker at the shortcut across loop 3 before one got to the big hill. Walking in the loose snow was a lot like walking in dry sand on the beach. It was an enjoyable walk back, a reverse of the woods types we'd encountered earlier, the sun warming us up enough to remove some layers. And then it was only a short trip home in the car which was nice..

We'll likely walk this trail again, snow allowing, and there is always the option of getting off the trail and walking the groomed Snowmobile Trail #7 which crosses the Pathway in several spots. But that will be for another day.




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Copyright 2021 by Susan Robishaw and Stephen Schmeck
 



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Have you read  "Frost Dancing - Tips from a Northern Gardener"? A fun short read.

or "Homesteading Adventures"    Creating our backwoods homestead--the first 20 years.

and "Growing Berries for Food and Fun"   A journey you can use in your own garden.
 

updated 10/06/2019

 

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